What is Unified Communications? The Full, Detailed Explanation

October, 26 2021

What is Unified Communications? The Full, Detailed Explanation

In the past, we had very few ways to communicate with each other: In-person, via email, and over the phone. If you were lucky, you could throw in a work-approved instant messenger into that mix. But as technology developed, every standard communication functionality began to have its own app — and it could quickly get clunky.

So when Apple brought calling, text messaging, video chatting, and iMessage into one user interface, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel: Unified communications.

Even though iPhones mainly targeted the general population, other telecommunication, and workforce productivity businesses got the idea. We all know what it’s like to toggle through various apps for texting, instant messaging, video chatting, and the small amounts of time it takes to jump around bottlenecks of any business, regardless of industry.

Unified communications are more than just voice and text capabilities though, it’s so much more. This post will give you a better understanding of unified communications and how it’s different from traditional communication. Then we’ll explain each of the features and functionalities you can expect from a unified communications platform one by one.

What is unified communications technology?

Unified communications (UC) brings multiple communication apps into one platform for a one-stop-shop experience. Over recent years, the definition of UC has evolved to include collaboration and contact center tools as well.

Benefits of unified communications

Countless statistics demonstrate the incredible adoption rate of UC technology over the last few years. Even though the pandemic accelerated the adoption of UC technology, it was becoming popular well before 2020, just like remote work in general. Here are just a few reasons why UC has built such a buzz:

  • Access to the newest features and technologies. New features are constantly coming to communication technology due to the nature of modern, leaner technology startups. Those stuck with legacy systems are limited in their ability to take advantage. Instead of ripping out and replacing systems to keep up with innovation, those using the newest UC technology get access to the latest features through relatively quick and easy software updates.
  • Reduced and/or eliminated data silos. Remember that UC isn’t only for direct communication; great UC tools allow you to manage all your information in a more centralized way. Workers who miss meetings, for example, shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get access to the information they missed. UC also improves visibility by allowing everyone to understand better what’s going on throughout the organization. Modern UC technology brings global teams together.
  • Reduced travel costs. Web conferences have become very reliable compared to when they were first introduced in 1996. Having to travel interstate or abroad for face-to-face meetings is no longer a business’ only option. Employees also get to save on travel costs due to UC technology, which gives them the tools and capabilities necessary to work from home effectively.
  • One-stop-shop efficiency. If you’ve found yourself toggling back and forth between 5+ different apps every hour, you’d know how much time this wastes. By bringing everything into one platform, managing conversations, and looking for vital information becomes effortless.
  • A well-equipped remote workforce. Most UC platforms run on the cloud, which means anyone with the correct credentials and an internet connection can access the information and tools they need to maintain productivity. With legacy technology, workers have to physically be present in the office to access most business applications and answer their work phones.
  • Hire talent in geographically remote places. Businesses are less restricted to only hiring talent within driving distances. Modern UC tools allow companies to engage employees in distant locations without sacrificing efficiency and productivity. We wrote in-depth about the benefits of hiring remote workers here.

Features and capabilities explained

As you can see, unified communications are best and most often used to improve efficiency, reduce communication costs, and boost productivity. Luckily, these benefits all come hand-in-hand; here are the features and capabilities that make it happen.

VoIP

As an alternative to traditional phone calling, VoIP makes calls over the internet. This is great for remote teams because workers aren’t tethered to a physical location. Workers also get access to the same phone number from any device or location. There are also ways to leverage the best of both worlds for businesses that don’t want to waste their investment in traditional phone systems.

Audio and video conferencing

Depending on your preferences, you can dial into meetings from your phone or join with video on or off. You won’t have to worry about inconveniencing anyone because many UC platforms, like Microsoft Teams, don’t require others to download an app. They can join meetings straight from their browser.

Microsoft Teams allows you multiple ways to access their software, including a desktop app, browser version, and mobile app.

Record meetings

You can record meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. This feature is convenient for those who couldn’t attend the meeting and for new employees.

Transcripts

Watching recordings is a great way to revisit a meeting. However, it’s not always the most time-efficient. You can activate auto-generated, time-stamped transcripts for your recordings so that others can quickly find what they’re looking for. You can also go back and edit transcripts in case the auto-generated words aren’t correct.

Live captions

AI-powered technology can turn your voice into captions instantly with high accuracy.

Accessibility in UC looks like live captioning, offering text-to-speech options, and much more.

Screen sharing

Screen share is outstanding for demos, powerpoints, and much more. You have the flexibility to share just one window with others or your entire screen.

Take polls

Quickly gather data from attendees and group members alike. Polls are handy when trying to determine the best day and time to set future meetings.

See who’s online

Presence technology lets your workers know who is online, available to help, busy, and more. This way, your team knows who to contact and won’t waste their time trying to get in touch with someone busy.

Most UC tools have indicators for whether you're online, in a meeting, or offline.

Use built-in whiteboards

Boards have been popular among teaching and various settings for a reason: they’re incredibly effective. That’s precisely why many UC platforms have introduced the virtual whiteboard capability to virtual meetings.

Whiteboard tools like Miro make uniting your communications across teams, departments, and locations easier than ever.

Built-in video chat

Allow guests to answer and discuss questions during the meeting. Video chat also allows attendees to ask questions to presenters.

Easily share files and view from anywhere

Share files easily through messages, during meetings, and much more. It’s also easy (and highly recommended) to store files in central content libraries organized by channels. This way, remote workers and in-office workers alike can access files securely from anywhere with an internet connection.

Feature-rich group chats

Group chats can be organized and labeled according to your preference. Individuals can further customize group chats for their account specifically as well. Get specific people’s attention with “@” mentions so that important messages don’t get lost in the feed.

Easily integrate with other apps

Seamlessly integrate with various apps, including CRMs and project management tools. By combining your communication tools with other apps, you unlock a multitude of new capabilities. Using Microsoft Teams as an example, you’re also not limited to Microsoft-specific apps.

In Microsoft Teams, you can integrate your united communications with Smartsheet, Outlook, and more.

Contact center capabilities

UC platforms today provide many contact center capabilities such as ring groups, which allow multiple phones to ring simultaneously or in sequence until someone answers. Other contact center features include virtual attendants, drag and drop call flows, and more.

Other notable features

The list of features available to organizations is extensive; we could go on and on. Here’s a list of a few more mentionable features that we use every day at Ampersand:

  • Mute all microphones during video conferences to eliminate interruptions and background noise
  • Choose various creative backgrounds
  • Choose video conference layouts, including putting the presenter as the central focus
  • Organize your calendar on the platform and join meetings directly from your calendar

Unified Communication Services

When it comes to the future of business communications, there are three fundamental aspects to consider: performance, security, and reliability. Unfortunately, many organizations mistakenly neglect proper security precautions when transitioning to unified communication tools, notably VoIP. Networks must also be monitored regularly to prevent communication and performance problems before they happen.

With Ampersand’s unified communication services, you can make the most out of unified communication technology without compromising on the three fundamental aspects. Ampersand can help your organization maximize the investment in unified communication technologies to not only ensure your team knows all the powerful capabilities available to them but can use them, as well.

Future-proof your communications with Ampersand

Unified communication services put you in a position to stay on top of the newest technologies, promote collaboration, and reduce overall communication costs.

Clunky, outdated systems require a lot of maintenance and don’t adapt well to the latest innovations. Perhaps most importantly, modern unified communications technology promotes a flexible work environment where workers can maintain productivity and collaborate from thousands of miles away.

Want to learn more about our unified communication services?

Visit our unified communication services here or reach out to us to talk to a tech specialist today.